Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Arts and Nature at Laman Tari Azanin




Suasana Cultural Centre is proud to announce the emergence of LAMAN TARI AZANIN (Azanin Dance Garden) which is ideally located at a most pristine and magical site.  Here, the newly-built Suasana Cultural Centre Complex faces the glistening Langat River and surrounded by luscious green rolling hills.  The flora and fauna is filled with myriad of colours of the exotic species of Heliconias, Gingers, and Costus.  The aroma of traditional flowers of the Kenanga, Melor, Kesidang, Melati, and Cempaka permeates all around.  The tranquility, the sereneness and the sense of peace in Laman Tari Azanin are so conducive and exhilarating for the expression of creative endeavours and performing art activities.

Amidst this wonderful natural ambience, Suasana Cultural Centre welcomes lovers of the arts and novices of culture to enhance further your life experiences by witnessing and participating in the activities and  the performing arts programmes presented here.

At Laman Tari Azanin

…….Activate your sense of sight, sounds, and smells

…….Colour your life in the flora and fauna

     …….Feel the Pulse of Living Traditions

…….Immerse in the aroma of traditional perfume garden

For it is where Art and Nature Dance Together




Suasana Culture Centre is an Arts and Culture resource centre with the prime objectives of nurturing, developing and promoting the rich cultural heritage in general of the region and specifically the performing arts of Malaysia.

Through the medium of theatre arts, Suasana under the artistic direction of the nationally and internationally acclaimed Dancer-Choreographer Datin Azanin Dato Ahmad, has brought the country’s name and image to high repute.  Suasana ‘s 30 years of existence, has accumulated not only a vast theatrical experience both on stage and in the electronic medium, but also it possesses a huge following and networking with international artists of reputable and distinguished personalities.

 SUASANA’s concept, performance repertoire and artistic approach are totally different from the mainstream and such an undertaking is actually normally branded as the SUASANA-AZANIN style of art creation.  In her capacity as Artistic Director, Azanin has devoted much of her energy to researching the classical art forms and has presented original Dance Drama Theatre productions based on the results of her study.  She has succeeded in presenting her performances of the classical genre in a new light.  Such artistic endeavours include the unique ‘Makyong’ theatre, the Gamelan of Terengganu, the Gendang Terinai of Perlis, Silat  (Malay art of self defence), and the Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppet) theatre form.

Azanin’s creative work has helped to revive the beauty and essence of this suppressed and dying art, shedding new light on the indigenous culture.  Her efforts in providing the stimulus to keeping this art form alive have made a great impression on lovers of the Arts locally and internationally.

 In the world of dance, SUASANA has touched the hearts and minds of audiences not only in Malaysia but also overseas such as in the United Kingdom , USA, Australia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, South Africa, Cambodia, and Singapore.



Below are some examples of Theatre Performances planned for this 2009 season.


Suasana Cultural Centre has produced several major nationally and internationally-acclaimed dance drama theatre productions – Dayang Sari, Jentayu, Putri Sa’dong, Cempaka Emas, Seri Rama-Siti Dewi, Keris, Kunang-Kunang Gunung Ledang, and Tun Fatimah.

 These masterpieces will once again be presented for the enjoyment of present day



An ancient form of traditional Malay theatre where dance, drama, singing, and comedy interplay with each other.  A unique theatre style from the Northeast coast state of Kelantan.


This performance is an ancient form of traditional theatre depicting the grand Ramayana epic.


The magical expressions of classical dance performances from the ancient royal courts will transport the audiences to the grand bygone days of our performing arts in perfect harmony with the haunting and magical sounds of the music of our ancient past




January 2009 intake is now opened for enrolment.

Existed since 1989, Suasana Cultural Centre welcomes members of the public from all walks of life and ages to come and join to learn our classical dance.


Classes: Every Saturdays – 10am/ 11am/ 12noon

                        One hour per class (four classes per month)


Fees:      Children/Students                               RM100.00 per month

               Students-College/University              RM120.00 per month

               Adults                                                   RM160.00 per month


Certificate of Attendance will be issued after each full year of attendance.

Special short term course is also available whereby specific timetable can be arranged and fees rated accordingly.



Performing Arts activities and programmes are made available for students during school holidays.  Special dance and music training classes, talks, workshops, and demonstrations will be conducted on a full day basis or for a one/two nights and two/three day’s session.

The participants will not only be mesmerised by the beauty of our arts and culture but will also be enchanted in the wonderful wonders of nature and be enthralled by this magical and traditional perfumed Dance Garden.


Suasana Cultural Centre works closely with specially-appointed Programme Organisers/Coordinators in developing artistic and creative programmes for the benefit of all participants. 

Students ranging from the age of 12 onwards are encouraged to participate in this unique combination of artistic and cultural experience and nature.


Examples of Programme Modules and Activities

-       Classical Dance Class

-       Classical Music Appreciation – music genre of our heritage

-       Talks/Lectures and Demonstration of our Performing Arts and History

-       Shadow Puppet Demonstration and Puppet making

-       Savouring food on the banks of the glistening waters of the Langat River.

-       Camping Activities/Barbeques/Bonfires

-       Nature Walks – A stroll in the Dance Garden inhaling the aroma of the traditional perfumed flowers, mesmerised by the myriad of colors and species of the exotic Heliconias, Gingers, and Costus, and staring at the majestic 50-odd years old Durian trees while surrounded by the chirping sounds of the birds.


The Fees and Programme Schedule and Modules are formulated according to specific requirements.

Certificate of Attendance will be issued to all participants.


It has been a norm for the Artistic Director/Choreographer of Suasana Cultural Centre to conduct Dance Workshops, hold Talks and lectures on her artistic life’s work locally and overseas.  The participants are from the different echelons of society – from the corporate sectors to institutions of learning and the public at large.  Overseas stint has always been a very satisfying exercise and an overwhelming experience.  It was reported by the host-organiser in countries like the United Kingdom and the Gran Canarias of Spain that a record number of 200-300 participants attended the workshop.  With such avenues, our performing arts dating from the ancient past – the Makyong Theatre, Shadow Puppet Theatre, and the Classical Royal Court dance were able to penetrate to the hearts and minds of those who attended.

 Hence, now with the presence of this newly-established artistic venue, this tradition will be continued.  Suasana Cultural Centre will also consider requests from the general public to hold such program from time to time.

 Guest Speakers, locals and international personalities, will also be invited to express themselves here.


Throughout the years of existence and having performances in several overseas venues, Suasana Cultural Centre has accumulated vast and varied connections and networking with international artist as well as creative institutions.  It has always been the desire of Suasana’s Artistic Director to invite these internationally reputable personalities to experience our local art and cultural heritage and undertaking collaborative work of art together.  The end result of this undertaking is to expunge such experience to the new generation of performing arts artists in the country.

The local masters and mastercraftsmen of our rich cultural heritage have been neglected and they now rapidly facing extinction.  Hence before these classical gems disappear completely, this program will make it possible for their precious artistic and creative skills to be researched and documented.  This special invitation for these artists to be in Laman Tari Azanin will provide that dearth of knowledge to be well preserved hence enable us to provide that continuity of the old to the present for the future generation.

This program will indeed help to fulfill the objectives of Azanin and Suasana Cultural Centre towards the preservation, development, and promotion of our dying rich cultural heritage




The tranquility and the ever so peaceful surroundings of the Laman Tari can provide an alternative venue for Corporate and group meetings and discussion in an informal manner,  Such ambience will inspire an alternative way of thinking which can lead towards a more creative sense of purpose and a more fulfilling interaction and communication with one another.  The environment here provides absolute privacy and one can be ‘yourself’ and hence provide an invigorating fulfillment of the objective at hand.

Laman Tari can be that space where you can explore in order to achieve self improvement, enable strategic decision making, improve communication, enhance team work, build up self-esteem, and most of all to really feel inspired.

The nature abound, the myriads of colours of the exotic plants, and the perfume of traditional flowers would certainly provide fabulous inspiration in your line of work.

Laman Tari is certainly an ideal venue for small and focus groups looking to have that special and meaningful synergy and bringing this new-found creative inspiration back to their workplace.


Available of different venue setting for different inspiration:

-       Balai -‘Rumah Ibu’  (which housed the main Gallery) – This is an indoor setting for Meetings or Round Table Conferencing for 8 to 10 persons.

-       Balai Tari

This is a handsome stage with traditional roofing and with open sides.  It has its own courtyard and hence one can have a choice either to use just the stage area or the courtyard or both.

Possible to have either table style and theatre style seating arrangement  or both

-       Laman

There are several choices of an outdoor garden setting which can suit your own personal preferences

Table setting  or picnic style where you can sit on the well-manicured lawn

-       Wakaf Soiree

      Available of two Wakaf (Pavilion) setting:

o      Wakaf Sungai is by the Langat River – can sit for 10 persons

o      Wakaf Tari is facing the Balai Tari and its courtyard – can sit for 14 persons



Laman Tari Azanin also welcomes all those who would like to have their own private events here such as:

Private/Exclusive Functions

-       Dinner under the Moon and the Stars

-        Luncheon

-       Morning coffee or Tea – A Stroll in the Garden

OR a whole day event amalgamating of the above three programmes

OR a half day programme

Press Conference

Product/Book Launch

Poetry Reading


Nature Walks

Multiple choices of Setting:

            Secluded/secret garden

            On the bank of the glistening river

            Balai Tari/stage/courtyard

Guests from overseas will certainly be enthralled by this exquisite magical setting that will leave a long and lasting memory.







Suasana 2661, Batu 18 ½ Jalan Hulu Langat

43100 Hulu Langat


Tel/Fax: 03 90216088

E mail:

Web page:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fred Lim's Buto Article in StarMag!

Sunday December 14, 2008

Mixed butoh batter

Review by FRED LIM

A showcase of the wonderfully quirky Japanese dance form called butoh teased its audience but failed to dazzle.

  • Butoh Caravan Paris -Tokyo Dec 5, Orchestra Hall, Akademi Seni, Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara)
In his opening lecture that launched Butoh Caravan, a week of butoh dance events in Kuala Lumpur recently, exponent Katsura Kan has likened watching this Japanese dance form as “watching a UFO in front of you”.

“It cannot be described and cannot be explained,” he added, alluding to the fact that butoh should be felt and experienced emotionally rather than having to follow a narrative.

Was the female duo Shinonome performing butoh or contemporary dance?

Indeed no other dance form in the world defies description and categorisation asbutoh does. Historically speaking, the birth of butoh has been credited to dancer Tatsumi Hijikata in the late 1950s. Together with his student Kazuo Ohno, they forged the fundamental form of this new dance that would be embraced by butoh practitioners all over the world today.

In one respect, butoh as a form came out of a protest by Japanese artists in the 50s and 60s to reject Western dance styles such as ballet. But there is a larger political significance to the movement. The curious, and often seen as mysterious, dance was a critical response to Japanese culture and politics of those times. In the wake of their WWII defeat and the American Occupation, there was a call in Japan to return to traditional culture and feudal traditions. So in another respect, butoh was a protest against the traditional Japanese artforms of kabuki andnoh that were hierarchical in their organisations and systematic and rigid in their art.

Butoh artists adopted a more fluid and open form of expression that was inspired by expressionist dance in Germany. Hijikata was a student of expressionist dancer Mary Wigman, so many dance theorists believed that butoh was partly derived from this European dance concept.

Today, butoh has been described as “animalistic”, “mysterious”, “depressing”, “lyrical”, “grotesque” and even “comedic”. Some of the descriptions are at odds with one another and yet they do represent certain qualities of the dance. Entrenched in the philosophy of personal expressionof the individual and body, it is easy to believe why there are so many “types” of butoh. While the common image of bodies painted all-white and twisted into contorted shapes still prevail – this being a direct influence of Hijikata – many butoh troupes and dancers have evolved their own styles.

The performance event, entitled Butoh Caravan Paris-Tokyo, that was headed by Katsura Kan, illustrated the diversity of this dance form in one single night. In the past, KL has seen different butoh performances from the epic stagings of Sankai Juku (2006) to the emotional and soul-shaking dances of Ko Murobushi (2004 & 2006).

Bizarre butoh ... two dancers in red burst forth from a polystyrene cow and played music!

What this show promised was four different acts in one show where the audience could see how butoh meant much more than just tortured white bodies. While the audience did experience a variety of butoh, there were certainly doubts regarding the performance quality.

First up was Californian Bob Web, a member of Kan’s group Saltimbanques, who presented Symphony. The piece could have been a “classic” representation of Hijikata’s butoh with contorted shapes and grotesque facial expressions made by Web. However, one could not help but feel that the contortions and grimaces were just forms that he had mastered while no emotional resonance carried throughout his performance. Instead, it became almost a parody of the “classical” form of butoh with a rotund dancer grappling with his balance and looking like a crazed ascetic.

While founder Hijikata concentrated on the grotesque and depressive nature of butoh - not unlike atom bomb victims of WWII Hiroshima - his student Kazuo Ohno often did comedic and slapstick butoh. Even then, Ohno’s funny antics have an underlying streak of darkness and sadness. So, when the second group Spiro-Ha entered with a man slowly, painfully dragging his stumbling, styrofoam cow, there was an air of expectation that their Unexpected Organs may be darkly comical.

The twist came when two other dancers painted in red burst forth from the cow playing musical instruments! No sooner than the three dancers had become a comically odd music band, the red ‘organs’ would run back into the cow. The whole scene was then repeated twice with no build-up in comic timing nor was there any signs of mounting horror.Unexpected Organs didn’t really do much to draw laughter nor any other feeling.

Katsumi Kan did ‘anti-taichi’ and various other gestures in his version of butoh dance.

The strongest piece of the night came from the master himself, Katsura Kan. His Curious was a graceful work that had him battling the wind as suggested by a violent sound effect of fierce winds, underscored by what sounded like a heartbeat. His nimble movements reminded one of tai-chi, or rather ‘anti-tai-chi’. Even then, it is questionable whetherCurious was a remarkable piece of butoh.

How does one question, gauge or grade good butoh?

Like any other dance, performance energy is a prerequisite and Kan did not seem to project much of that. Furthermore, the different flow of movements from ‘anti-tai-chi’ to just him miming, munching and on to several other gestures just didn’t seem cohesive.

Lastly, the female duo Shinonome performed their all-too-long three-part Song of Spring that became rather laborious. Also, it became an interesting debate over whether we were watching butoh or contemporary dance. As Kan said in his lecture, butoh is like an UFO, unidentified and unexplained. However, Shinonome seemed to have been trying out an interesting hybrid of just plain contemporary dance and butoh.

In the end, it may be true that butoh defies definition and that the beauty of butoh is in the eye of the beholder.

Having said that, certain standards of performance were not truly upheld in Butoh Caravan Paris-Tokyo, such as dancers’ energy and going beyond visual oddity. Unfortunately, the seemingly mysterious yet attractive qualities of butoh may have eluded first-time butoh goers in this particular event.

  • ‘Butoh Caravan’ was part of week-long butoh activities that consisted of an opening lecture, multiple workshops and performances around Kuala Lumpur. Fred Lim recently completed his Masters in Theatre in Royal Holloway University of London under the Chevening Programme. Aside from being an arts practitioner, his new interest is in dramaturgical studies for performance.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mak Yong Article in NST Monday 9 December 2008

NST Online » Features 2008/12/07
ENTERTAINMENT: Mak Yong for all

Some of the Mak Yong dancers.
Some of the Mak Yong dancers.

Kudos go to certain quarters for staging and performing in the recent Mak Yong Extravaganza, writes ZULKIFLI MOHAMAD, but he feels more has to be done to take the art form to a higher level.

A scene from Mak Yong Extravaganza.
A scene from Mak Yong Extravaganza.
MY attention was focused on the question “How did you know about the Mak Yong Extravaganza?”

I was filling up a questionaire for the audience on the opening night of the recent event at Tunku Abdul Rahman Auditorium, Malaysia Tourism Centre, Jalan Ampang in Kuala Lumpur.

The event banners along Jalan Damansara caught my eye, but frankly, there just weren’t enough. 

Those in Kelantan and Terengganu are familiar with Mak Yong unlike other Malaysians or the expat community and tourists.
Two rows of girls garbed in Mak Yong pemeles headdresses and Malay ceremonial costumes, like young princesses of ancient times, were a welcome sight (probably to greet dignitaries) on opening night.

The sound of rebab music filled the air, together with the scent of sweet jasmine flowers. 

Earlier that evening, a fellow playwright asked me: “Why extravaganza? Extravaganza is too foreign to be connected with Mak Yong, a legendary Malay dance theatre.” I couldn’t argue with those remarks.

The event, organised by National Department for Culture and Arts under the Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage, saw four performances by different groups, and lecture-workshops by well-known teachers in the field. 

Though there were four scheduled from Nov 27-30, starting with Dewa Indera, Indera Dewa (by Kumpulan Mak Yong Kijang Emas, Kelantan), Endeng Tejeli (Kumpulan Mak Yong Seri Nilam Istana Budaya), Raja Tangkai Hati (Kumpulan Mak Yong Dewa Muda) and Nik Kecik Dewa Muda (Kumpulan Mak Yong Aswara), Tari Mengadap Rebab, the overture of all Mak Yong performances, was performed by all four groups, accompanied by spirited rebab master Che Amat (Awang Omar). 

The stage was filled with at least 50 performers even though Mak Yong is considered a dying art form. But on the other hand, that square proscenium stage was way too small to fit in 50 dance-actors, plus the eight-piece music ensemble. 

The eight striking blue-yellow-white batik cloth pieces that dropped from the ceiling to the stage floor were distracting. The hanging cloths stayed throughout the four performances, which was not necessary as the cyclorama at the back could be used for multiple purposes, especially with its changeable colours, that could complement each scene. 

The two roving headlights used during the suspenseful scenes were totally unnecessary and disturbing, as they were directed towards the audience. 

Kijang Emas, the first group from Kelantan, was quite impressive, considering that all the performers were new students, including the musicians, except for the rebab player (who is also the Adiguru or Mak Yong teacher for the group).

This is exactly what Unesco requires after putting Mak Yong under its Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity list — preservation work should be continued at its birthplace, Kelantan. Bravo to JKKN for championing the teaching of arts that is banned in its own state.

Congratulations also to Aswara (National Academy of Arts and Heritage) for making Mak Yong one of its compulsory subjects, together with Wayang Kulit, Randai, Bangsawan and Mek Mulong. Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris is to be lauded for introducing Mak Yong as one of the theatrical expressions and so is Istana Budaya for promoting Mak Yong among non-Kelantanese performers. 

Classical performances derive from ancient culture and languages; therefore they have their innuendos. If we can appreciate Italian, French and German opera or Japanese Kabuki, why not Kelantanese dialect that belongs to the Langkasukan culture from the second century. 

Having said that, we should not expect the audience to understand the language of Mak Yong instantly. That is why the promoters and producers of cultural production should write synopses in both Malay and English.

It is quite difficult to have running subtitles for a performance as a lot of its parts are improvised, especially the peran’s (court jester) role. 

At the extravaganza, the audience could see that the two screens on both sides of the stage were not utilised fully, so these would have been perfect for the translation. After all, the extravaganza is not just for those who understand Kelantanese, but for all Malaysians.

Perhaps it is also one of the intentions of the organiser to get the four participating groups to learn from — and not compete with — one another. 

In that four nights, the audience witnessed four of the 12 main stories of Mak Yong. But in this age of globalisation, mere delivery of the songs, lines and dances of Mak Yong is not enough if we want to bring Mak Yong to a higher level and the world stage. 

Dr Zulkifli Mohamad is active in promoting the arts through the KL Fringe Festival, productions, collaborations, writings and teachings.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Perginya Seniman Negara

Seniman Negara Syed Alwi, selamat dikebumikan di Perkuburan Islam Bukit Kiara, dekat TTDI KL pada 1 Disember 2008. Al Fatihah, semuga rohnya dicucuri rahmat. Allahyarham adalah antara penggiat teater yang melalui dua zaman iaitu zaman penjajahan serta zaman kemerdekaan dan banyak menghasilkan karya yang mantap dan mempunyai impak khususnya dalam memperkatakan isu-isu berhubung bangsa Melayu. Allahyarham adalah di antara seniman yang mampu berkarya di dalam dua bahasa, Melayu dan Inggeris. Syed Alwi dianggap sebagai tokoh terkemuka yang mengangkat martabat teater tanah air daripada corak purbawara dan bangsawan kepada corak yang lebih bersifat kontemporari. Antara karyanya yang pernah memenangi pelbagai hadiah termasuklah drama Alang Retak Seribu (1973), Tok Perak (1974) serta dua drama berbahasa Inggeris "I Remember The Rest House" (1992) dan "Member of The Club" (1994). Syed Alwi adalah pengasas Kumpulan Teater Seni Malaya (Malayan Art Theater Group) pada tahun 1951, yang kemudian bertukar menjadi Malaysian Art Theater Group. Allahyarham pernah mengarah dan berlakon dalam beberapa pementasan teater terkenal antaranya Midsummer Nights (Starveling), Androcles and the Lion (Slave) dan Henry V (Duke of Bedford) sehingga 1953.

Beliau melanjutkan pelajaran ke University of Minnessota, Amerika Syarikat dalam bidang teater dan kewartawanan serta merupakan anak Melayu pertama yang melanjutkan pelajaran ke luar negara dalam bidang berkenaan.Syed Alwi pernah menerima Hadiah Pelajaran Tabung John D. Rockefeller III untuk mengkaji perkembangan teater dan filem semasa di Amerika antara April dan Jun 1980.Anak kelahiran Taiping, Perak ini mendapat pendidikan asas di Sekolah Melayu Pondok Tanjung dan Sekolah Taiping.

Syed Alwi juga pernah bertugas dengan RTM, TV3 dan NTV7 sebagai pengurus, penerbit, pelakon, penulis dan pengarah selain pernah bertugas dengan Filem Negara, Panggung Negara, Akademi Seni Kebangsaan, Universiti Malaya dan Pejabat Penerangan Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu. Beliau diisytiharkan sebagai penerima Anugerah Seni Negara pada 19 September 2002, iaitu satu penghargaan dan pengiktirafan tertinggi kerajaan kepada penggiat seni negara.